Kent State basketball team signs 5 year old with cancer

Coach Rob Senderoff (right) welcomes Malyk Foster to the Kent State Golden Flashes basketball team while Danielle, Malyk’s mom, smiles with pride in the Kent State Mac Center on Aug. 26, 2019.

Nick Pedone

Malyk Foster started off his Monday morning just like any normal five year old.

He spent most of the day on his iPad, watching YouTube videos. His mom, Danielle, popped in his room and told him they were heading to the M.A.C. Center, where Malyk would sign his letter of intent to join the Kent State Golden Flashes basketball team.

He quickly put the tablet aside, found his white Kent State shirt and hat, and was ready for his big day on campus.

Malyk, a nervous but spunky basketball player from Kent, was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis in 2017.

Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare form of cancer, hasn’t stopped Malyk’s love of basketball. His passion for the game landed him with Team IMPACT, a national nonprofit based in Massachusetts, that connects children facing serious or chronic illnesses with college athletic teams, forming lifelong bonds and life-changing outcomes. 

Malyk strutted into the M.A.C. Center with his reflective sunglasses on, his mom and Head Coach Rob Senderoff by his side, and he was prepared to sign his letter of intent to join the Golden Flashes. He was welcomed by the sound of applause and the rapid clicking shutters of cameras. 

Within moments of his arrival, Kent’s newest athlete took center stage for his first press conference with his mom to his right and Coach Senderoff to his left.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have Malyk join our program today,” Senderoff said. “We started recruiting Malyk during the summer.”

Senderoff explained that Kent State’s basketball team consists of “tough kids” with courageous characteristics who overcame many obstacles to play Division I basketball. Malyk is no exception.

“No one that we could sign touches those attributes quite like Malyk and his whole family,” Senderoff said.

Senior Philip Whittington was one of the four seniors that joined Malyk and Senderoff in front of the media on Monday afternoon. Before Malyk signed his letter of intent to join the Flashes, Whittington formally welcomed the five-year-old star to the team.

“We are excited to add a strong, brave and courageous boy to our program,” Whittington said. “You will not just be apart of our team, you will be apart of our family.”

After Whittington’s warm welcome, Malyk officially signed his letter, resulting in a thunderous applause from his family that closely watched from the front row, the basketball team, cheerleaders and members of Kent State’s athletic staff. 

Malyk penning his name onto his Kent State contract was far from the end of his day. As Kent State’s newest student-athlete, Malyk and his mother answered questions from numerous media members in attendance.

A kid of few words, Malyk was taken aback by some of the questions. 

“How does it feel to be a Golden Flash?” one reporter asked.

“Good,” the five-year-old said with a nervous smile.

Throughout the tough questions, Malyk timidly confessed with a nod that his big signing day was much more exciting than playing on his iPad. 

His mother, Danielle, was much more comfortable and collected in front of the cameras and microphones and was able to express the family’s gratitude on this very special day.

“This team has opened up their hearts to my son,” she said. “This year is amazing to my family.”

Once the press conference and photos were out of the way, Malyk downed a slice of pizza and grabbed a nearby basketball in the press conference room. Kent State’s mascot Flash, along with the basketball team, guided him down to the court where he was able to get some work in with his new teammates.

For the first time, Malyk was able to pound the basketball on Kent State’s floor as an official member of the Golden Flashes.

Senderoff watched on the hardwood in the distance as his larger-than-life athletes interacted with the pint-sized recruit— who still had his sunglasses on. Malyk worked on shooting the ball, but Whittington lifted him in the air for a few easy dunks. 

Malyk understands he won’t be seeing playing time this season for the Flashes. But as an official team member, he will be attending practices, games, team dinners and events.

“To have a young man like Malyk apart of the team for the season makes it more special,” Senderoff said.

Nick Pedone is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]